Circulation & Your Feet


The human circulatory system is made up of a pump (your heart) and a delivery system (your blood vessels) for transporting blood throughout your body. The two types of circulation in your body are called systemic circulation and pulmonary circulation. Your systemic circulation is responsible for bringing fresh, oxygen-rich blood to all your body’s tissues and organs, while your pulmonary circulation is responsible for carrying oxygen-depleted blood from your heart to your lungs. Systemic circulation is controlled by the left side of your heart, pulmonary circulation by the right.

Though two distinct cycles make up your circulatory system, both cycles operate simultaneously. Blood fills your heart chambers and is pumped to your lungs and the rest of your body (organs, tissues, extremities) by your right and left ventricles, respectively. For the average person, this process repeats about 72 times per minute, though great differences exist between people based on fitness level and activity status. Certain medications and health conditions can also affect the efficiency and capacity of your circulatory system.

Circulation is an important issue, especially as it pertains to your extremities. Blood flow to the points in your body farthest away from your heart, including your feet and toes, can become compromised for various reasons, which in turn affects tissue health in these areas. In extreme cases, prolonged insufficient blood flow to your extremities may cause tissue death and lead to amputation of your affected body part. Some of the most common circulatory problems that may affect your feet and toes include Raynaud’s, peripheral arterial disease, and diabetes.

Raynaud’s is a health problem involving the spontaneous narrowing of blood vessels in your fingers and toes. This condition causes temporary skin discoloration in involved areas along with pain and discomfort, in many cases. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a health problem in which plaque—a combination of calcium, fibrous tissue, fat, and cholesterol—accumulates in the arteries that deliver blood to your head, organs, and limbs. Plaque can harden your arteries over time and decrease the diameter of your blood vessels, which reduces the amount of blood reaching certain parts of your body, including your feet.

Diabetes is a chronic, or lifelong, condition in which your body is unable to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Foot problems are among the most common health concerns diabetics face. Several types of diabetes exist, yet they all may cause similar changes in your feet. Prolonged elevated blood sugar levels may lead to a serious health complication known as neuropathy—nerve damage or dysfunction. The nerves in your feet perform many important functions, and they may be particularly susceptible to diabetes-related damage.

Blood vessels run alongside nerves in many parts of your body, including your feet. In your foot, these structures travel together between your metatarsal bones—the long bones in your midfoot. Both the nerves and the blood vessels branch at the base of your toes before sending oxygen-rich blood to your toe tissues. Enabling natural toe splay is vitally important in ensuring optimal circulation and nerve function in your forefoot and toes. Most conventional shoes possess toe box taper, a design feature that compresses your metatarsal bones and squeezes the bundles of nerves and blood vessels that lie between. Correct Toes, our toe-spacing product, helps improve blood flow and nerve health in this part of your foot by opening up nerve and blood vessel channels and reducing the effects of pinch forces associated with prolonged conventional footwear use. Correct Toes can be used in combination with wide toe box shoes, while barefoot, or in wide slippers for this purpose too.

Please note that while many shoes may call themselves wide, they’re often widest at the ball of your foot, not the ends of your toes. It’s important to use Correct Toes in footwear that is widest at the ends of the toes. A shoe that possesses toe box taper is the opposite of natural foot shape. Please also note that smoking is one of the principle underlying causes of many circulatory issues, including reduced peripheral circulation. Smoking boosts your risk for atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease, and several ingredients in tobacco cause narrowing of your blood vessels, which increases your chances of a blockage, and therefore a heart attack or stroke.

Check out this informative video in which Dr. Ray McClanahan explains how footwear and toe splay affect foot and toe circulation:

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